published Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Erlanger Health System begins executive shake-up

This is a part of the Erlanger campus as shown near downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday.
This is a part of the Erlanger campus as shown near downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday.
Photo by Tracey Trumbull.
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An executive shake-up is under way at Erlanger Health System, including a reorganization of vice president positions and elimination of some positions, according to Erlanger officials and board trustees.

No names or positions of those affected were released by late Wednesday evening.

In an emailed statement, interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson said the new organizational chart will be posted internally once all those affected have been notified.

"As communicated ... last week regarding stabilizing our operations and financial status, I explained we would be demonstrating leadership by re-organizing Erlanger's executive team first," Woodard-Thompson said in the email. "My commitment and goal is that our employees, physicians and trustees be notified of specific leadership changes prior to the general public."

Doug Fisher, vice president of government and corporate affairs at Erlanger, was reached at his home Wednesday afternoon. Fisher declined to comment about the changes or who may be affected.

"It would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time," Fisher said.

Former Erlanger CEO Jim Brexler, who was given a $728,000 severance package on Monday, hired Fisher in 2007 and later married Fisher's daughter.

Several trustees said Wednesday they were aware of changes at the executive level but had not been given specific information on how many or who would be affected.

"There will be some vice presidents leaving," trustee James Worthington said Wednesday. "We were over-weighted at the top and had far more executives than we had to have. Unfortunately, it means some people will be let go."

Worthington said he is hopeful the changes would get the hospital back on the right track and on more stable financial footing.

The changes come on the heels of months of turmoil at the public hospital, the region's only level-one trauma center which provides $80 million in indigent care annually.

The hospital announced Brexler's retirement in November, and the board spent weeks haggling over his severance package. Initially, they rejected a package but, in a 5-4 vote, OK'd the payout.

In a labor management plan outlined at the end of December, the hospital asked some employees to take 12 days of paid time off before March, a move expected to save the hospital $1.4 million.

"A voluntary separation program will implemented in selected departments and jobs, starting with the executive level," Woodard-Thompson said in that plan.

Through November, the hospital has lost $6 million this fiscal year, which began in July. December financial figures will be released later this month.

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about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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